For the most part, the state’s new climate plan could have been titled “Let’s Plan for the Storm of the Century,” a basically sound idea. Unfortunately, the plan also promotes a continuing unconstitutional effort by the state to take over land-use planning from the counties and municipalities.
The plan assumes there will be catastrophic impacts from global warming, a concept some key state leaders follow with religious like fervor. The facts show no upward trend in global average temperatures for the last eighteen years and point to modest environmental impacts from global warming.
Recent legal rulings have upheld local control of land-use issues as delegated and overturned state attempts to write land-use regulations.
The state Strategic Planning Office must approve local land-use plans as they relate to state-funded infrastructure, such as highways. Some key goals of the climate plan are directed at influencing land-use planning. The office is adding a request that local land-use plans consider climate change and will enforce it by weighing infrastructure investment in favor of localities that include climate considerations that conform to the state plan.
Additionally, DNREC will use worst-case scenario estimates of global-warming-induced sea level rise and increased rainfall to push for more control over storm water management (an issue already involved in a lawsuit), shoreline management, beach replenishment, and expanded tidal wetlands maps.
DELDOT will use the presumption of more temperature-influenced high-ozone days to consider driving restrictions during air quality events. DEDO will encourage real estate agents to spread out weekly beach rentals to different start dates, an idea that has some merit but will be disruptive to the tourist industry, which currently caters to renters’ Saturday-to-Saturday preferences. It should be noted that all these efforts would likely lead to higher costs for private industry.
The climate plan forecasts sea-level rise from greenhouse-gas-induced global warming from 1.5 to 5 feet by 2100, and used 3 feet as the standard to develop Flood Risk Adaptation Maps that will be used for state planning purposes. Meanwhile, the report also quotes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates of only 1.1 feet of sea level rise by 2100, including about half that amount from localized land subsidence at the Lewes Tide Gauge, an amount that roughly equals 20th Century sea rise.
Most of the state is not subsiding, and land height is actually increasing for estuaries owing to deposition of sediments from upstream erosion. A realistic expectation is for about 6 inches of real sea level rise by 2100. The plan also assumes rainfall will increase during major storms because of global warming. Even the U.N. climate change report admits no linkage has been confirmed between global warming and storm intensity.
The state wants to abandon the use of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) hundred-year Flood Insurance Rate Maps, which look at historic trends and current flood-plain data. The complaint is that these maps don’t forecast future trends. We submit that the FEMA maps are updated frequently enough to be used for infrastructure planning over the likely life span of most infrastructure projects. The use of DNREC’s Flood Risk Adaptation Maps uses questionable forecasts and will result in unneeded additional expense for both state and private interests. The expanded wetland maps will take a large amount of private land out of development potential without compensation.
Worst-case-scenario climate change estimates will be used to force a review of electric rates by the Public Service Commission that could lead to higher rates. The Department of Health and Human Services wants to increase low-income fuel assistance, even though higher average temperatures would have the net impact of lowering utility bills, as much more money is spent on heating then on cooling.
Every state agency has an action step in the plan to increase education of the reality and impacts of catastrophic climate change, an effort some of us would call propaganda.
Finally, the state has adopted a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 30 percent by 2030, from a 2008 base year. The plan admits carbon-dioxide emissions were already reduced by 25 percent by 2010 and so is looking for an additional 5 percent reduction by 2030 from new initiatives.
Appendix C of the plan provides the key assumptions used in developing emission forecasts. The plan used in the U.S. Energy Information Agency’s (EIA) 2009 forecast assumed carbon-dioxide emissions would increase 0.7 percent a year to 2030. The most recent EIA forecast from 2014 assumes emissions will decrease by 0.2 percent a year. The more recent forecast shows the 30 percent carbon dioxide emissions reduction target will be met without any new initiatives needed.
The legislature, and all Delaware citizens, should question any legislation, budget, or regulatory changes driven by the “Climate Framework for Delaware.” ♦
David T. Stevenson is the Policy Director, Center for Energy Competitiveness, of the Caesar Rodney Institute.